american history

  On two consecutive days in June 1963, in two lyrical speeches, John F. Kennedy pivots dramatically and boldly on the two greatest issues of his time: nuclear arms and civil rights. In language unheard in lily white, Cold War America, he appeals to Americans to see both the Russians and the "Negroes" as human beings.

His speech on June 10 leads to the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of 1963; his speech on June 11 to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Based on new material -- hours of recently uncovered documentary film shot in the White House and the Justice Department, fresh interviews, and a rediscovered draft speech -- Two Days in June by Andrew Cohen captures Kennedy at the high noon of his presidency in startling, granular detail.

In 1948, President Harry Truman, enjoying a bath on the White House’s second floor, almost plunged through the ceiling of the Blue Room into a tea party for the Daughters of the American Revolution. A handpicked team of the country’s top architects conducted a secret inspection of the troubled mansion and, after discovering it was in imminent danger of collapse, insisted that the First Family be evicted immediately.

What followed would be the most historically significant and politically complex home-improvement job in American history. Robert Klara writes about this period in his book, The Hidden White House: Harry Truman and the Reconstruction of America's Most Famous Residence.

Robert Klara is a longtime magazine editor and writer. He’s served on the mastheads of numerous titles including Town & Country and Architecture, and he’s currently a staff writer for Adweek and a contributing editor for American Road magazine.

    When Lions Roar begins in the mid-1930s at Chartwell, Winston Churchill's country estate, with new revelations surrounding a secret business deal orchestrated by Joseph P. Kennedy, the soon-to-be American ambassador to Great Britain and the father of future American president John F. Kennedy. From London to America, these two powerful families shared an ever-widening circle of friends, lovers, and political associates – soon shattered by World War II, spying, sexual infidelity, and the tragic deaths of JFK's sister Kathleen and his older brother Joe Jr. By the 1960s and JFK's presidency, the Churchills and the Kennedys had overcome their bitter differences and helped to define the “greatness” in each other.

Acclaimed biographer Thomas Maier tells this dynastic saga through fathers and their sons – and the remarkable women in their lives – providing keen insight into the Churchill and Kennedy families and the profound forces of duty, loyalty, courage and ambition that shaped them.

   Historian and biographer Richard Norton Smith is in our region talking about his new book, On His Own Terms: A Life of Nelson Rockefeller. Fourteen years in the writing, the book is being hailed as the definitive biography of the New York governor and U.S. vice president.

Historian Douglas Brinkley described the book as, “one of the greatest cradle-to-grave biographies written in the past fifty years.”

The New York State Writers Institute presents a conversation with Richard Norton Smith at 4:15 this afternoon in the Standish Room in the Science Library at SUNY Albany, and Smith will be speaking tonight at 7:30 about his biography at Page Hall on SUNY Albany’s Downtown Campus at 8PM.

  When Abraham Lincoln helped create the Republican Party on the eve of the Civil War, his goal was to promote economic opportunity for all Americans, not just the slaveholding Southern planters who steered national politics. Yet while visionary Republicans like Teddy Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower shared Lincoln’s egalitarian dream, their attempts to use government to guard against the concentration of wealth have repeatedly been undone by the country’s moneyed interests and members of their own party. Ronald Reagan’s embrace of big business—and the ensuing financial crisis—is the latest example of this calamitous cycle, but it is by no means the first.

In To Make Men Free, historian Heather Cox Richardson traces the shifting ideology of the Grand Old Party from the antebellum era to the Great Recession, showing how Republicans’ ideological vacillations have had terrible repercussions for minorities, the middle class, and America at large.

  This week in our Ideas Matter segment, we are joined by representatives from The Vermont Humanities Council to discuss their Fall conference which is entitled: A Fire Never Extinguished; How the Civil War Continues to Shape Civic and Cultural Life in America.

  Historian Edward Baptist reveals in The Half Has Never Been Told that slavery and its expansion were central to the evolution and modernization of our nation in the 18th and 19th centuries, catapulting the US into a modern, industrial and capitalist economy. 

    Band of Giants brings to life the founders who fought for our independence in the Revolutionary War. Jefferson, Adams, and Franklin are known to all; men like Morgan, Greene, and Wayne are less familiar. Yet the dreams of the politicians and theorists only became real because fighting men were willing to take on the grim, risky, brutal work of war.

We know Fort Knox, but what about Henry Knox, the burly Boston bookseller who took over the American artillery at the age of 25? Eighteen counties in the United States commemorate Richard Montgomery, but do we know that this revered martyr launched a full-scale invasion of Canada?

The soldiers of the American Revolution were a diverse lot: merchants and mechanics, farmers and fishermen, paragons and drunkards. Most were ardent amateurs. And journalist, novelist and historian Jack Kelly tells their story in Band of Giants.

  Doris Kearns Goodwin—the bestselling, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of No Ordinary Time and Team of Rivals—brings her blend of scholarship, intellectual rigor and riveting storytelling to the turbulent and fateful relationship between two presidents, the rise of muckraking journalism, and the far-reaching ferment of the Progressive Era.

Her best-selling book The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism is out this week in paperback.

      Simon Winchester, The New York Times bestselling author of Atlanticand The Professor and the Madman delivers his first book about America.

The Men Who United the States is a fascinating history that illuminates the men who toiled to discover, connect, and bond the citizenry and geography of The United States of America.